TX, OK, AR, TN, KY, WV, VA, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI

This is a WIDE country with lots of states to pass through from one coast to the other, especially if the preferred route is mostly back roads. My last post left off about midway across Texas.

Turkey, Texas – Home of Bob Wills. He and his band toured in the bus shown above.

Texas back road. Lots of breathing space.

Arkansas back road. No truck traffic here!

Our next stop of note was at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The Fordyce Bath House (above) was proclaimed the best in Hot Springs in 1915. In 1989, the building, which was closed since 1962, reopened as the park visitor center and museum after extensive restoration work.

The bath house facilities were quite lavish. This stained glass ceiling was above the women’s spa.

The gymnasium features state-of-the art equipment from 1915. Other exhibits include furniture and equipment of the time: steam cabinets, mechano-therapy equipment, tubs, massage tables, sitz tubs, chiropody tools, and hydrotherapy equipment.

Today, the Quapaw Bathhouse offers a modern-day spa with coed pools and spa services.

The Grand Promenade provides a picturesque place to stroll and enjoy the elegance of a bygone time.

One of 47 hot springs around the immediate area.

A touch of spring.

How is this for good marketing? Of course we had to try it. Good, but not the best we’ve ever had.

The park is quite spread out, so we had to drive to visit different areas. On our way to one scenic area we came across Tiny Town USA. While we felt the $6 admission fee was a bit steep, the owner, whose father and grandfather had built the “trains across America” exhibit over 68 years, provided an entertaining guided tour.

Except for the trains and metal cars and trucks everything was handmade from repurposed materials.

Too bad we came through on a Sunday as Miss Vicki’s in Trimble, Tennesee could have been an interesting lunch stop.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee.

Historic entrance at Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky. Featured is the world’s longest cave. We toured just a small portion of it and hiked around other areas of the park a bit.

Here we are camped out at Chris and Drew’s house on Possum Trot Lane in Leburn, Kentucky. They just moved here from Southern California last summer.

I went to grammar school with Chris and don’t believe we’ve seen each other since 6th grade. Gotta love finding old friends on Facebook!

The Kentucky DOT had their work cut out for them building the roads here. Most seem to be carved through hard rock mountains.

Many back road homes across America feature a collection of seemingly discarded stuff. This is actually a rather moderate example, but one I could inconspicuously photograph.

Lots of curvy-wurvy roads in these parts.

I found Tamarack in Beckley, West Virginia on my AllStays Camp and RV app listed as a free place to overnight park, but it turned out to be much more. Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia is the nation’s first purpose-built showcase of regional handcrafts, fine art and cuisine. It comprises a warmly decorated retail store, working studios for resident artisans, a fine art gallery, a theater, A Taste of West Virginia food court, and a conference center. Al and I enjoyed perusing the very high quality artisan arts and crafts plus a simple meal out before retiring in their quiet parking lot. Thank you West Virginia. Every state should have a center like this!

Our lunch view in the Alleghany Highlands in Virginia.

Falling Spring Falls is a breathtaking 80-foot cascade.

Driving…

And more driving…

On the last morning of March we awoke to these ice crystals on the skylight above our pillows.

We got snowed on in Upstate New York the morning of our last full day of driving. It was straight home from here. Maybe we should have stayed in California a bit longer…

We thank all our wonderful friends (old and new), family members, fellow Westy owners, in addition to the Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host members who have enriched our travel experience in so many ways. We deeply appreciate your hospitality!

 

 

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Heading Home… No Rush

We reluctantly headed east for the long drive back home. Our first stop was in the town of Joshua Tree, CA.

Jennlyn and “Bear” welcomed us at their humble off-grid estate just outside the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. We had been introduced online by our mutual friend Jim in Rhode Island. He thought we might get along because we are both native Californians. We had a great, albeit brief, visit and hope to return for a longer stay sometime in the future.

After several months of property restoration work they moved onto these 5 acres of land that Jennlyn’s grandfather homesteaded after serving in World War II.

There wasn’t much left of the cabin when they took it over. The windows had all been broken out, the kitchen cupboards had been removed and repurposed by a neighbor, and the floor was covered with rodent droppings.

They have built a propane powered shower, a bathroom shed, and a yoga/laundry platform among other improvements.

Here is their medicine wheel and campfire area. They also have a great outdoor kitchen.

This beautiful rock-pile is just across the road within a great area to hike.

Jennlyn gave us a tour of their property and nearby geologic features, fixed us a home-cooked meal that included smoked bacon from a freshly butchered pig, and allowed us to spend a peaceful night in HaRVy. Thank you!

We prefer to “Shunpike,” staying off the major highways as much as possible. We seek out quieter, more relaxing routes (less trucks) that often provide more interesting scenery while still allowing us to drive our preferred speed of 55 mph.

Kickin’ back on Route 62 somewhere between Joshua Tree, CA and Parker, AZ.

After another quiet night with Boondockers Welcome hosts in Salome, AZ we visited the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, AZ. A stunning collection of western art is exhibited here. The painting above is called “The Bug Picker.”

Camping in the Good Ol’ Days …?

After a restless, noisy (trains, planes & automobiles) night camped out in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shop in Mesa, AZ we were off towards New Mexico on Routes 87 and 260.

From the desert to the top of the Mogollon Rim where pine trees prevail. What a contrast!

High wind warnings had us traveling faster than we prefer towards Albuquerque. Route 60 East provided wide open spaces. We then turned north on 30 and onto 177 where the scene above suddenly appeared as we approached  El Malpais National Monument.

Scenic surprises like this are what driving cross-country on the back roads is all about.

In Albuquerque, NM we spent an afternoon hiking around Petroglyph National Monument, one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago

Our primary reason for stopping in Albuquerque was to meet-up with new found Westy owners Liesbet and Mark. We spotted their vehicle in Joshua Tree National Park in early January. They were out hiking so we left our card on their window. I soon received an email message from Liesbet and we’d been trying to get together ever since.

Besides owning nearly identical vehicles, we have all spent time sailing, so we had a lot to talk about. They also made us the most excellent home-made pizza ever!

Zesty and HaRVy meet. Our visit took place at a beautiful hillside home at which they were house sitting. The exquisite view from our “campsite” featured sparking city lights and bright stars at night plus hot air balloons at dawn. We wish we could have stayed longer and hope they will visit us in Rhode Island someday.

Absolutely FREE campground at Bosque Redondo Lake near Fort Sumner, NM.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this billboard as we drove by, so we turned around and drove back to take this photo. What do you think?

I spotted this abandoned building off the side of the road in Taiban, NM so we turned around again. Little did I know that this former Presbyterian church has quite a history.

Lots of this type of scenery in Texas. At least there isn’t much traffic. High wind warnings again got us on the road early. By 2:30 we called it a day as the gusts increased.

The welcoming committee at Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, TX. The Texas State Bison Herd is the last remaining group of southern plains bison. If curious, read about them here.

Potentially dangerous wind gusts kept us camped here an extra day, but not from taking a couple of hikes around the canyons. With luck we will be back on the road tomorrow with fair weather and light breezes.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Last California Beach Days

One last parting shot of remarkable Jalama Beach north of Santa Barbara. We were very lucky to have sunny, mostly calm weather in this notoriously windy spot.

We were sad to leave this magical place, but glad to be heading a bit further north to meet up with fellow traveling friends Keith and Cheryl at Morro Bay. We originally met this fun couple in New Brunswick, Canada and have since crossed paths with them in Newfoundland, the Florida Everglades, Colorado and California. Good times all.

Morro Rock is the westernmost remnant of a chain of ancient volcanoes.

We hiked a nice boardwalk trail around an extensive estuary here. The Morro Bay State Park campground, where we stayed, is located right across the street from this marina.

The highlight of our visit was a spectacular bike tour along the Bluff Trail at Montana de Oro State Park. Our ride began here at Spooner Cove.

Don’t get too close to that drop-off!

The gang’s all here!

Our beautiful ride featured beaches, rock islands, natural bridges, coves and more. Outstanding!

Watching whales in the distance…

…and sea creatures up close.

After our time in Morro Bay we turned around to go back south before heading homeward. Avila Beach provided a lovely backdrop for lunch on an unusually warm winter day.

The next day we spent a couple of hours at Refugio State Beach, where it was not quite as sunny or warm. It was, however, destined to be our last walk in the sands of the California Coast, so we savored our time there.

We have taken great pleasure on many California beaches this winter. Soon we turn east towards Arizona and eventually to our home on the East Coast. This summer we will enjoy some beautiful beaches in New England.

But first there is the big cross country drive…

 

Coastal Cruising

I think I can finally say that HaRVy’s recent mechanical problems are fixed… I don’t want to jinx anything by celebrating too enthusiastically, but we have been back on the road for over two weeks now and all is well (thank goodness). It seems that it was a new head gasket that we needed all along, but we had to go through several mechanics to reach the correct diagnosis.

Anyway… after returning the borrowed pick-up truck to my niece in Ramona, we hightailed it back to the coast where we began meandering northward.

Our first stop was at the military campground at San Onofre Beach. So lucky to get to camp here.

We scored an oceanside campsite. Almost couldn’t believe that they installed electric hook-ups this close to the water.

This area features several famous surfing spots. This driftwood teepee was at Trestles.

Here we are at “Old Man’s” inside San Onofre State Beach Park, situated right next to our campground.

Looking back towards our campground from the state beach.

I just can’t stop shooting beautiful sunsets. That spot in the sky is a kiteboarder’s sail.

The access to panoramic views such as this is just one of the reasons we love HaRVy so much.

We spent a couple of days in the area of San Clemente,  Doheny Beach, Dana Point, and Capistrano Beach, but I did not take any photographs worth sharing.

We did a little birding at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in Huntington Beach.

Enjoyed this view while having breakfast onboard in Long Beach harbor after an afternoon and overnight boondock in Seal Beach.

We generally avoid freeways, but to visit our friend Sean in Bel Air it was necessary to brave Friday afternoon traffic on the famed 405…ugh.

It was fun to visit and have lunch out with Sean and Deborah.

We lucked into another beachfront campsite at Pt. Mugu military campground near Oxnard.

We spent an afternoon at Pt. Dume Beach in Malibu. 

We took a lovely hike up the bluffs for this splendid view. I just can’t get enough of this beautiful coast.

Here’s what rain looks like in Southern California. Unfortunately, it rarely reaches the ground.

We spent a couple of days and a night in Carpinteria where we enjoyed another hike along the bluffs. On this one we got to view a harbor seal rookery. (Too distant to photograph, sorry.)

Here we are camped out in my high-school friend Diane’s driveway in Santa Barbara. We arrived in time to help celebrate her birthday.

We stopped for lunch and a brief walk at El Capitan State Beach just north of Santa Barbara.

Our first glimpse of beautiful Jalama Beach after a breathtaking back road drive to get there.

The view from our campsite.

We walked the secluded beach for miles in both directions, loving every minute of it!

No idea what forces created these strikingly patterned rocks, but they sure are interesting!

I leave you with yet another California sunset.

 

 

 

Hangin’ Out

Camped at quiet and lovely Dos Picos County Park in Ramona, CA.

Camped among the grapevines at Hatfield Creek Winery, a Harvest Host in Ramona.

As much as we had hoped that HaRVy’s last repair shop visit would be climactic, that was not to be. He is now at yet another shop, trying to get the problem fixed once and for all (fingers and toes crossed). I am so thankful that our only expectations were to spend this winter in SoCal because that is just about all we are accomplishing. Certainly can’t complain about the weather though. We have enjoyed abundant sunshine with comfortably warm days and cool nights.

We are both also grateful for the generosity of friends and family. My incredibly understanding friend from high school days Bernie and his wife Leslie welcomed us into their beautiful house in Escondido, CA (just 10 minutes from repair shop) where we have been hanging out for the past week and a half (Thank you!). Also, my niece lent us her husband’s pick-up truck (Thank you Kim!), so we have been able to do some interesting day trips from our comfortable home base.

We hiked several times in nearby Felicita Park.

I could almost feel the native peoples’ presence in this oasis.

So peaceful and pretty.

The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad was quite interesting. We both got to try out several instruments displayed in their hands-on exhibits.

Al releasing his “Inner Clapton.”

The local farmers market took place next door to the historic Sikes Adobe where we lucked into tickets for their annual Valentine’s Tea.

Torrey Pines State Reserve provided a nice afternoon hike with stunning views.

Bernie and Leslie’s home with the sweet Little Free Library they built and installed.

Still waiting…

California Dreamin’

I loved the Mamas and the Papas lyrics as a teenager living in Southern California… “California Dreamin’ on Such a Winter’s Day.” They resonate even more now that I am out here to escape the freezing temperatures occurring in the state I now call home.

We were happy to catch up with fellow RV travelers Keith and Cheryl from Denver on Coronado Island in San Diego. They camped at Silver Strand State Beach while we were at the military facility just a mile down the road –  Fiddler’s Cove RV Resort. Keith is a pretty serious bird watcher, so he drove us down to the Estuary of the Tijuana River in nearby Imperial Beach to check out the avian activity there.

We hiked the North Beach trail to the mouth of the river. Despite these ominous signs, the big waves still attracted a few surfers. Apparently Tijuana’s sewer system dumps directly into the ocean.

We saw lots of shore birds plus a Peregrine Falcon, but the estuary itself was not very photogenic (in case you’re wondering why I only include one photo here).

The next day we hopped on our bikes for a wheeled tour around Coronado Island.

San Diego’s downtown skyline looked pretty impressive until this huge Navy ship passed by, dwarfing the buildings.

All of us in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado that is celebrating it’s 130th birthday this year.

We spent the next couple of nights boondocking in the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood.

The sandstone cliffs have eroded dramatically in recent years. The layer of asphalt atop this sea stack testifies to the fact that the parking lot used to be a lot bigger.

There was some serious wave activity while we were there. Incredibly loud when trying to sleep aboard HaRVy. I guess that’s the price you pay for oceanfront lodging.

Time for another brief break from RV living.

While HaRVy spent another week with a mechanic (hopefully the last one on this trip). We took an Amtrak train north to stay with my brother and his wife in Camarillo. Thank you Jeff & Paula!

While there we took a couple of interesting outings to natural settings that movie studios used for on-location filming. The first place we hiked was known as CorriganvilleCreature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and The African Queen (1951) are just a couple of the dozens of films with scenes shot here in the early 20th Century. There’s not much left to see there, but signs pointed out some notable settings.

Al making like a movie cowboy in the same spot where Ken Maynard stood in photo above this one.

We have probably all seen this rock formation in the background of early western movies and TV shows.

The next place we visited is now Malibu Creek State ParkLove Me Tender (1956) with Elvis Presley, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and Pleasantville (1998) were among the many movies partially filmed here. However, if the location looks familiar to you, it is probably because you watched the TV show Mash.

Our docent guide was surprised to see so much water in Malibu Creek as it is usually bone dry.

The Rock Pool is a popular hiking destination within the park, especially during the hotter summer months.

I also had the opportunity to spend time with a friend and cousin who live not too far away. Thank you Karen and Ann for coming by to visit. Great to see you both.

If all goes well we should be back onboard HaRVy tomorrow afternoon. We have no certain itinerary, so you’ll have to wait for my next post to see where we go next!

Thanks for your interest.

Southwest Arizona

We didn’t plan to spend so much time in Southwest Arizona, but despite recurring vehicle problems, we have enjoyed the area – especially the beautiful Sonoran Desert!

On our last full day in Tucson, we took a delightful hike around nearby Sabino Canyon in the Coronado National Forest.

I have really learned to love Saguaro Cactus which are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. No two are alike! Some can be downright whimsical.

We were told that two mother mountain lions and their cubs were around this precious water source, but we did not see them.

90 minutes west of Tucson we toured the Kitt Peak National Observatory, the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth.

This one is a solar telescope. Unfortunately, it is not current operating.

A small section of the 360-degree view from Kitt Peak.

This is one BIG telescope!

Astronomers must LOVE this place. I don’t know how they can decide which telescope to use with so many to choose from.

A beautiful sunset welcomed us upon arrival at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This is the only place north of the Mexican border where Organ Pipe Cactus grows.

The 3-hour ranger-led van tour of the Ajo Mountain Drive was a nice way to see more remote sections of the park.

We spent a few days in Yuma, Arizona where we rode our bikes along the Colorado River. They consider this little bit of sand a beach. We met lots of nice people during our stay including a Boondockers Welcome host couple we stayed with for two nights.

Tonight we have quite a different view overlooking San Diego Bay. HaRVy finally made it back to the West Coast!